We use numerical modeling to investigate fault properties that explain key features of the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake as well as the overall regional behavior of the NE Japan megathrust. In particular, we study the possibility that slip near the trench resulted from thermal pressurization on a shallow patch of the megathrust, and investigate whether low-velocity friction on that patch is rate-strengthening or rate-weakening. Our models also contain a deeper rate-weakening patch, not prone to efficient thermal pressurization, to account for the moderate-sized interplate seismicity. We produce earthquake sequences and aseismic slip in our models using 2D dynamic simulations that incorporate shear-induced temperature variations and the associated change in pore fluid pressure to capture thermal pressurization. We find that all our models can reproduce more frequent deeper moderate (Mw 7.5) events and less frequent larger events with substantial slip at shallow depth, as observed along the Fukushima-Miyagi segment of the Japan megathrust. However, only the scenario with a sufficiently rate-strengthening patch can match the thousand-year recurrence time of Tohoku-Oki-like earthquakes suggested by the historical and geological record, due to co-existence of seismic and aseismic slip at the shallow depths. This scenario also reproduces other characteristics of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake: the trenchward-skewed distribution of slip, the backward re-rupture of the deeper patch, as well as the weaker radiation at high frequency of the shallower portion of the rupture in spite of its larger slip.
- 2D dynamic simulations of earthquake cycle
- Shallow propagation
- Thermal pressurization
- Tohoku-Oki earthquake